The room was buzzing with fervor as the crowd listened and watched at the Eurovision Song Contest Viewing Party on Saturday, May 18 at John Barleycorn Bar and Grill. (Scroll down if you are eager to hear the winning song..)

The first contest was in 1956 and it has since become Europe’s favorite television show and one of the longest running programs in the world. The European Broadcasting Union came up with this idea of an international song contest. Represented countries would participate in one television show which would be shown in those nations. According to their website, the first viewers watched the contest in homes, bars and shop windows in Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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Chicago Viewing Party
Chicago Sister Cities International chose to host an event for those who wanted to watch the competition. American broadcasting companies currently do not air the contest on television and therefore viewers must stream it from their personal computers. The competition was shown on several different televisions in the bar as well as a larger screen that allowed everyone to see. This year, the contest was held live from Malmo, Sweden.
Chris Sundell, a Northpark University graduate, says, “I used to only be able to watch it online. But here there is food and drinks and a lot of fun!”
Priscilla Tidaan, also a recent graduate of Northpark University, agrees. “I always have to watch it on my computer at home and I find it very annoying. This is so much more exciting!”

All ages and many nations
A portion of the upper level of John Barleycorn was packed with people of all ages. There were many tables, each of them with supporters of one or two different countries. Flags were proudly positioned on each table that were brought by those attending the party. Many donned their most colorful and supportive outfits to represent their favorite contestant.
At the end of each song, there was an enthusiastic waving of the flags no matter the country. Everyone was excited to be apart of such a unique event.
Only one month ago, the planning began for the party. Little did the committee know what a success it would be. Erik Kinnhammar, manager of International Programs at Chicago Sister Cities International, was a major part of the planning. “I can not believe the great turnout. We had only 115 sign up on paper, but there are many more here today,” says Kinnhammar.

Bringing the community together
Much excitement could be heard in the voices and spirits of the party goers. Not only were they able to cheer on their favorite countries, but they also enjoyed the company of friends and a few good drinks. A signature Eurovision Song Contest cocktail was even available.
“We love having events like this,” says John Barleycorn River North manager Eduardo Lapuente. “It really brings the community together and promotes our business.”
Former Consul General Kerstin Lane was surprised by the turnout. “There are so many more people here than we had expected! I am hoping that this will be an annual event.”
Karin Abercrombie, the executive director of the Swedish American Museum, says she had no idea what to expect, but "What a great crowd!”
The party itself had its own competition for those who attended and their favorite performances. The winners were Sweden, Denmark and Greece. However, the Eurovision winner overall was the country of Denmark.
This affair is surely not to be the last of its kind.
To find out more about Chicago Sister Cities International, visit www.chicagosistercities.com. To find out more about John Barleycorn Bar and Grill, visit www.johnbarleycorn.com.

By Eva Larson, Chicago

Who won this, the 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest? Denmark's Emmelie De Forest with the song 'Only Teardrops' - Congratulations Denmark! Listen to the song on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k59E7T0H-Us

With Sweden as the hosting country similar viewing parties were held in other cities in Swedish America. A highlight this year was the exclusively composed anthem for Eurovision Song Contest 2013 Malmö, a collaboration between the Swedish natives Avicii (Tim Bergling), Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (ABBA). Listen to the production here: We Write The Story (Eurovision Anthem 2013) - Avicii and Björn & Benny from ABBA